Continentality determines warming or cooling impact of heavy rainfall events on permafrost

Alexandra Hamm*, Rúna Magnússon, Ahmad Jan Khattak, Andrew Frampton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Permafrost thaw can cause an intensification of climate change through the release of carbon as greenhouse gases. While the effect of air temperature on permafrost thaw is well quantified, the effect of rainfall is highly variable and not well understood. Here, we provide a literature review of studies reporting on effects of rainfall on ground temperatures in permafrost environments and use a numerical model to explore the underlying physical mechanisms under different climatic conditions. Both the evaluated body of literature and the model simulations indicate that continental climates are likely to show a warming of the subsoil and hence increased end of season active layer thickness, while maritime climates tend to respond with a slight cooling effect. This suggests that dry regions with warm summers are prone to more rapid permafrost degradation under increased occurrences of heavy rainfall events in the future, which can potentially accelerate the permafrost carbon feedback.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3578
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2023


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